Swappable Heads

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This guide will outline a method by which a figure can have several quick change heads by making a ball and socket neck. The end result will be similar to the neck joint on the Major Barrage and Venemous Maximus figures. This is so that a masked or helmeted figure (Snake Eyes being the example) can have an unmasked head for the same body without the need for unscrewing the figure. The heads need to be of softer plastic such as that found in the newer sculpt figures, and as such ARAH heads will not work.


Tools and Parts Needed

  • Heads - You will need the heads you will be working on obviously.
  • Neck - One of the necks will be used as the body's base neck. It will match the host torso as it will not change.
  • Neck joint - The ball joint to be mounted in the neck that the heads will attach to. There are severall options available that will be detailed below.
  • Super Glue - Needed for fixing the heck pieces together.
  • Knife - For cutting and the like.
  • Drill - Used in mounting the neck joint and hollowing the heads.
  • Dremel or other rotary tool - Used for making the head hollowing easier, not essential, but very useful.

The Process

The process is quite straight forward, but it is important to understand each step fully before continuing. The work is all quite intricate, and mistakes will be hard to fix. Don't be daunted, as drilling or cutting less than you think at first, then test fitting and trimming again will ensure a smooth result.

Preparing the Parts

The first step is to get all the parts ready for the main process to come. Firstly, you will need a peg for the heads to clip onto. This piece will be the ball in the ball and socket joint. One of the easiest availble options are the joints on Takara Microman figures. The hip piece on these figures is made of three such pieces (see figure 13). The neck piece is simply a ball on a stick, but the ball is only slightly larger than the peg, so the join will not be as secure. Microman figures are quite costly however, and other solutions include pieces of sprue from model kits and many articulated models themselves (Gundam and the like). A joint could be fashioned out of modeling putty also, but may be uneven or too rough.

Once you have the peg, the heads need to be cut from their neckballs. Cut as close to the jawline as possible, saving both halves (figure 14). One of the severed neckballs will become the primary neck of the body. Cutting the top at a slight angle will allow the head to sit more naturally and have better movement.

A custom neck may be better than either of the two donors. Obviously it would match the body best, but it may be impossible to get a perfectly desirable result for all figures. For example; with a uniform matching neck Snake Eyes unmasked will appear to have a turtleneck on - with a flesh coloured neck the unmasked head will look good, but the masked head would have a strip of skin below it.

Assembly of the Joint

Now you have all your parts (figure 15) it is time to put them together. First the ball part of the joint needs to be fixed into the neck peg. A hole needs to be drilled to mount the ball. Due to the newer sculpt plastic being somewhat rubbery a larger drill bit may be needed, but start smaller than you think - oversize is alot harder to fix than undersized. The hole needs to be as dead on center and as verticle as possible. There is no easy way to get this right apart from lots of concentration. As the neck peg is also at an angle using a fine drill bit to make a guide hole will help to keep the hole straight down.

Once the hole is drilled give the ball a test fit to make sure it is deep enough and a snug fit. If the hole is too deep modelling putty can be put in the hole to shallow it out. Judge the depth by seeing how deep the drill bit goes, and compare it to the shaft on the ball. That will give a rough guide to how much needs to be filled in. The ball needs to protrude from the neck, not sit flush, as the head grips around it, needing space on the underside or it will pop off easily.

A small drop of superglue in the hole will be suffiecient to hold the ball into the neck peg. Put the ball into the neck peg, leave to dry and the neck will be complete (figure 17)

Next, it is time to hollow out the sockets inside the heads. Start by drilling a hole slightly larger (only very slightly) in diameter to the hole drilled in the neck peg. It should be just deeper than the ball, as the head will completely enclose the ball and have a 'lip' to grip it with. As the ball is wider, the head needs to be hollowed slightly to make a proper socket. Using a smaller drill bit or a round tipper engraver (such as on a Dremel), carve out the head slightly, creating a bell shaped or spherical hollow (figure 20). It will be very fiddly and require alot of finess, but once completed you will have a figure who can swap heads in seconds (figures 21 -23).

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